In the public discourse on climate action, we often focus on people's personal lifestyle choices, neglecting work-related emissions. In academia, recent studies show that the research-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) alone are substantially higher than those of the german average, let alone the german targets for the Paris agreement (Jahnke et al. 2020). This is e.g. due to business trips, electricity needs and heating.
Quantifying and visualising these emissions are the first steps to then propose and take measures for reduction. Ongoing monitoring and feedback helps to mantain positive changes. A competitive format between different groups, e.g. between departments of a university, may help to bring ambition, team building and fun into the process, further increasing the effectiveness of actions.
We want to create a webtool and mobile application in form of a questionnaire where institutions and individual emloyees can insert their emissions in different categories to get a total and per-employee carbon footprint estimate. Results will be communicated visually in diverse ways. Furthermore, users will receive a category ranking of their emissions to prioritize their actions. Targeted measures for reduction will be suggested, which participating institutions can further evaluate for acceptance among their employees. The initial quantification is followed by a monitoring period. After the institution starts to take measures, it updates the info provided to the calculator. With multiple departments or institutions joining, the competitive aspect of comparing each other's progress will help to keep people motivated and engaged.
We identified the main categories that our assessment tool has to cover and drafted questionnaires for the online carbon footprint assessment. We also put much thought into the nature of our project. It is intended to start as a bottom-up, voluntary movement and is therefore community-centered. It is solution-oriented and aims to provide suggestions for tangible actions without shaming or overwhelming the individual participants. We want to include reward mechanisms, e.g. giving out certificates for teams with the biggest improvements (Eco-branding). Participating institutions can use it to gain momentum and get a louder voice to also convince decision-makers on higher levels. We also discussed implementation details and decided on an interactive website and mobile app. Furthermore, we adressed some of the challenges like dealing with data gaps, acceptance, and data security.
To continue the project, we need human resources to develop the overall assessment method and collect the data needed for the GHG emission calculations. We also need to program the website and app and develop a graphics design for it. Moreover, we need to find ways to process and visually prepare the data and to deal with data security and protection issues. Finally, we need helping hands to maintain and advertise the project and to gain public outreach.
Jahnke, K., Fendt, C., Fouesneau, M. et al. An astronomical institute’s perspective on meeting the challenges of the climate crisis. Nat Astron 4, 812–815 (2020). 10.1038/s41550-020-1202-4
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